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MILITIA GROUP CALLS OKLAHOMA BLAST `HEINOUS,' CALLS FOR DEATH PENALTY

The U.S. Militia Association abhors the "heinous" crime visited upon Oklahoma City by a disaf fected, one-time visitor to a military group, Samuel Sherwood, its national director, said Saturday.

He said culprits of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, the bombing of a federal building, should be punished "with a severity so they will never repeat" it again.Sherwood, head of a nearly 5,000-member political-military group, spoke to the press and less than a dozen onlookers Saturday in the county government complex.

"Give them a quick, just death penalty so society won't be punished again by maintaining them for 10, 20 or 30 years in prison," he said, echoing President Clinton's sentiments. "We need to show the world we will punish them and not allow the innocent to be victims in vain."

Sherwood distanced his group - which "encourages the creation of chartered military units under state code" - from splinter groups such as the Militia of Montana, which cater to "Rambo-wannabes" and "inexcusable and uncalled-for" violence.

"He (Timothy McVeigh, the man charged with the Oklahoma City bombing) got carried away and became misled in such a way that became disaffected and disassociated. lost sight of the genius of the process we go through," Sherwood said.

The U.S. Militia Association is based in Blackfoot, Idaho. According to Sherwood, it promotes civilian military units sanctioned by state, county or local governments for the protection and betterment of society. The idea behind the militias, which have been organized in 17 states so far, is for a volunteer corps to assist police officers and save government dollars, he said.

Sherwood said true militias embark on recycling and neighborhood clean-up projects, provide home-repair assistance and are trained and equipped for disaster relief.

The U.S. Militia Association has branches in 11 states and members in 35 states, Sherwood said. He said they come from all walks of life, include all races - except Vietnamese - and are diverse in social, political and theological background. Sherwood called USMA one of the hardest organizations to become a member of, because its members must study and go through an interview and screen-ing process.

According to Sherwood, the U.S. Militia Assocation provides a "constructive and safe outlet for those who intend to use guns."

"If there's nothing constructive available, (potential criminals) will move to the more radical groups," Sherwood said.